Named after the founder of Venice, Abbot Kinney Boulevard is home to an incredibly eclectic collection of ultra-hip shops, restaurants and cafes. The antithesis of Beverly Hills’ Rodeo Drive, the mile-long strip in the Venice district is shopping mecca for those in search of vintage clothing, funky collectibles, quaint antiques and local art. While Abbot Kinney is not widely publicized as one of the ‘must-dos’ in LA, I rate it as one of the best ‘local’ experiences.
Start your day off in this super pet-friendly neighbourhood with coffee at Intelligentsia. You will recognize this coffee specialist by the queue that snakes out. And do pick up a pastry or muffin from their delicious selection to complement that cup of java.
Intelligentsia Coffee – 1331 Abbot Kinney Blvd | 310.399.1233
Firefly – Everything in this lifestyle store looks so good and screams ‘uber cool’ there’s bound to be something for everyone.- 1409 Abbot Kinney Blvd, Venice | 310.450.6288
G2 Gallery – Enjoy photographic art from some of the most celebrated nature and wildlife photographers and contribute to a great cause. Proceeds from art sales are donated to environmental causes. – 1503 Abbot Kinney Blvd, Venice | 310.452.2842
Tortoise General Store/ Tortoise – Both stores, a mere hundred feet apart, are owned by Japanese couple Taku and Keiko Shinomoto whose lifetsyle products add a delicate flair of elegance to the neighbourhood. The newer store, Tortoise, carries a range of specialty art pieces and jewelry for the more discerning clientele – 1208/ 1342 Abbot Kinney Blvd. Venice | 310-396-7335
Anada Lifestyle – Fun, bohemian & vintage, ’nuff said! – 1354 Abbot Kinney Blvd, Venice
Surfing Cowboys – This is a great store of vintage collectibles and retro furniture – 1624 Abbot Kinney Blvd, Venice
You know you’ve found a true gem when you’re already requesting dinner reservations for the following night and you’re barely through your first dish at lunch. Gjelina is that good. From the gorgeous interior of the restaurant to the charming outdoor seating in the back, you’ll be swooning even before the food arrives. Throw in perfectly executed Italian-cuisine, a couple of mimosas, impeccable service, and you’ll understand immediately why there is a never-ending line to get a table at Gjelina. Hey even the toilet sink’s cool – you turn an antique wheel to get the water flowing.
Tip: Have a late lunch so that you can skip most of the lunch crowd and shorten your waiting time. The full lunch menu is served from 11am- 3pm; only pizzas and drinks are served after. The dinner menu is served from 5.30pm onwards.
Gjelina – 1429 Abbot Kinney Blvd, Venice | 310.450.1429
If you have a sweet tooth try Jin Patisserie (local’s fav!), 1202 Abbot Kinney Blvd or N’ice Cream for homemade gelato and sorbet, 1410 Abbot Kinney Blvd
Ocean Drive: Venice and Santa Monica Beach
Just a couple blocks from Abbot Kinney is Venice beach. The most fun way to soak up the sun and experience the Californian lifestyle is to rent a bicycle and follow the pathway down Ocean Drive that will take you to Santa Monica beach.
Along Venice beach, you’ll find a myriad of tacky shops and make-shift stalls selling souvenirs and knick-knacks to marijuana ‘health’ clinics and the famous muscle beach where real big men can be seen pumping some serious iron. But notice the change in landscape as you make your way into Santa Monica beach where tacky stalls are replaced with people playing beach volleyball, swinging on parallel bars and other outdoor gymnastics equipment. Towards the end is Santa Monica Pier where screams of delight and fun can be heard from children on the Viking ship, mini rollercoaster ride or from winning adorable soft-toys at one of the many games stalls.
The view from the start to the end of the pier is stunning and you’ll love the festive atmosphere and convivial vibe of this truly Californian experience.
Check what time sunset is to ensure that you are at the end of the Santa Monica pier in good time to watch the sunset spectacle – this is the BEST place to watch it. (Don’t forget to set your camera to ‘sunset’ mode for those beautiful holiday memories).